Materials and Process

February 1, 2019

Sustainable fashion is distinguished from fast fashion less by the principle and more by the means of production. To measure the sustainability of the garment, researchers and manufacturers look at how they are being made, where they are coming from and what is happening to the garments after use.

When distinguishing a sustainable material, it is “not necessarily the fiber itself, but maybe the treatment of that fiber,” Treptow-Kovacs said. “If it was coated, it can biodegrade but it can still release some toxin.”

Other ways brands or companies are taking sustainable initiatives are by sponsoring groundbreaking research being done on sustainable technology.

The use of synthetic fibers are going to be more damaging to the earth to produce. However, there are ways that they can still be sustainable, Treptow-Kovacs said.

Companies like Repreve are taking recycled plastic water bottles and deconstructing them to produce a synthetic fiber to construct athletic wear — Patagonia and Roxy being some of the brands that outsource this material.

There are also new types of fibers being used in up and coming brands — one including hemp.
“Hemp is something that I am personally interested in,” Barron said. “It is a very sustainable crop, but it is definitely something with a lot of legal ramifications. It is very upcoming material.”

Not only are the materials crucial to the sustainable movement but so is the labor source. Ethically-sourced labor has become increasingly important to many consumers in recent years, and many brands are shaping to the needs of their demographics.

“As the internet has continued to grow, people have been more conscience of what their footprint is,” Barron said. “At the same time, when people started liking organic food and trying to follow fair trade, the same has happened for fashion.”

The process and means of production determines a brand’s sustainability — this movement is evident through the list of materials on the shopping tag and the faces behind the garment.

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